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Comparison of ALS- and UAV(SfM)-derived high-density point clouds for individual tree detection in Eucalyptus plantations

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Highly accurate, rapid forest inventory techniques are needed to enable forest managers to address the increasing demand for sustainable forestry. In the last two decades, Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) and Terrestrial Laser Scanning have become internationally established as forest mapping and monitoring methods. However, recent advances in sensors and in image processing – particularly Structure from Motion (SfM) technology – have also enabled the extraction of dense point clouds from images obtained by Digital Aerial Photography (DAP). DAP is cheaper than ALS, especially when the systems are mounted on small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and the density of the point cloud can easily reach the levels yielded by ALS devices. The main objective of this study was to evaluate and compare the usefulness of ALS-derived and UAV(SfM)-derived high-density point clouds for detecting and measuring individual tree height in Eucalyptus spp. plantations established on complex terrain. A total of 325 reference trees were measured and located in 6 square plots (400 m2). The individual tree crown (ITC) delineation algorithm detected 311 from the ALS-derived data and 259 trees from the UAV(SfM)-derived data, representing accuracy levels of, respectively, 96% and 80%. The results suggest that at plot level, UAV(SfM)-generated point clouds are as good as ALS-derived point clouds for estimating individual tree height. Furthermore, analysis of the differences in digital elevation models at landscape level showed that the elevations of the UAV(SfM)-derived terrain surfaces were slightly higher than the ALS-derived surfaces (mean difference, 1.14 m and standard deviation, 1.93 m). Finally, we discuss how non-optimal UAV-image-acquisition conditions and slope terrain affect the ITC delineation process.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Forest Research Centre (CEF), Instituto Superior de Agronomía, University of Lisbon, Lisboa, Portugal 2: Grupo de Estudos em Tecnologias LiDAR (GET-LiDAR), Departamento de Ciências Florestais, Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz”, Universidade de São Paulo (SPU), Piracicaba, Brazil 3: RAIZ (Forest and Paper research Institute), The Navigator Company, Eixo, Portugal 4: Departamento de Botánica, Biodiversidade e Botánica Aplicada, Grupo de Investigación en Biodiversidade e Botánica Aplicada GI-1809-BIOAPLIC, Escola Politécnica Superior, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, R/ Benigno Ledo s/n, Campus Terra, 27002, Lugo, España 5: Departamento de Producción Vexetal e Proxectos de Enxeñaría, Unidade de Xestión Forestal Sostible GI-1837-UXFS, Escola Politécnica Superior, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, R/ Benigno Ledo s/n, Campus Terra, 27002, Lugo, España

Publication date: August 18, 2018

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